Bins and balls get a good kicking

July 22, 2005

Name : Phil Cooke

Age : 40

Job : Senior lecturer in Italian at Strathclyde University, right in the centre of Glasgow.

Salary : Senior lecturer scale.

What is your background? First degree and PhD in Italian from Edinburgh University, much nicer than Staines, where I grew up. I started Italian from scratch and was lucky to come across some brilliant teachers.

What are your working hours? Nine to five. I have two young children, so working evenings and weekends is not as easy as it used to be.

How many students do you teach? When I started in 1993 we had four honours students; this year we have a record . In terms of teaching staff, there is another senior lecturer, a professor, two language teaching fellows and a clutch of postgraduates.

What has been your biggest challenge this year? The research assessment exercise How did you solve it? Denial.

What has been your worst moment in university life? I now give lectures in Italian history to students at Glasgow University using our state-of-the-art videoconferencing facilities. At my inaugural "synergy" lecture, the sound failed and we had to abandon proceedings. I am not easily rattled, but I was not pleased.

What is your office like? It is a disgrace. Students have to remove books and papers from the chairs if they want a seat.

What university facilities do you use? I play basketball twice a week in the sports centre with some colleagues from prosthetics and orthotics, architecture and marketing. The facilities are not great, but the activity is very therapeutic.

What is the social life like? It is not what it used to be. There was a golden period during my late twenties and early thirties when there were lots of young, enthusiastic staff who knew how to enjoy themselves. But we did get the honours students in the other week for a few glasses of wine to celebrate their results.

Who are your most difficult customers? The students are all very affable and down to earth, though I'd like them to have greater confidence in their ideas.

What is the best excuse for bad behaviour? I once kicked a wastepaper bin across a crowded lecture hall. There is no excuse for this, I'm afraid, however, I do remember it felt very good at the time. I also shoulder-charged one of this year's final-year students - but it was during a game of football!

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